A shadow air-bladed down the streets; sodium lamps dimmed in and out, flashing on the trails of blood left on the pavement. Thunder beat on the clouds in the north; thunder roiled on their underbellies in the south.
'Sh-She's fine, she's not dying, she's fine, she's fine, she's FINE. She WILL be FINE!'
Shit, where am I going...? Where the FUCK am I going?!
My eyes are too raw to see a damn thing, the hail's leaving dents on my forehead, my brain's throbbing inside my skull, the wind's popping my ears, and all that chaos behind me; I can't fucking F-O-C-U-S.
All I'm breathing is the stench of blood on the pink and red victim curled into my chest. Her warmth - it's dying. Her heartbeat - it's s-slowing. Her fingers, dirty with blood, are fisting in my chestfur, blooding its white, and I couldn't ask for more of a sign of life.
She NEEDS me. I can differenitate her hot tears from the cold rain and her dyin-...-dehydrated rasping from the storm's howls.
My feet keep fighting against the chucks of hail that have no doubt left its welts on my eyelids and the hard rain that's numbed me all the way to the cells.
'I'm going to CASTRATE him, I'm going to fucking rip his testicles off and gag them down his throat!'
I want to butcher something, anything, and ever-y-thing. I want to gorge someone's eyes out, decapitate their body parts, crack their head open, tear out their esophagus with my own bare teeth. I want to see someone's blood in place of hers, I want to take anyone else's life for hers! God DAMN it, I can hardly breathe...I'm seeing red, I'm grasping my own throat, all and everything is blurring into jittery pixels.
"Sh-Sha~dow~..." - That pulls me down to the world I was slowly leaving.
I can feel more tears on my chest.
However, I couldn't rift my lips apart wide enough to soothe her with the lie that she'll be just fine, or manage to keep my irrationability stable enough to even sanitize myself.
I could only so much bark, "Quiet."
Don't talk. Breathe; don't waste what you have left.
Amy Rose clings to me tighter and whimpers out her sobs and fears. I cradle her to me closer and growl between my 'asthema' attack.
I long to be naive like you, Rose, to believe everything will be fine in the outcome. I long to hope so boundlessly, the hope I was once not so short of.
My fingers dig into her skin. My eyes burn with passion, "You will not die. Do you hear me?" ...I begin to feel this familiar, wet pressure on those same angry eyes as I snarl my hate for this twisted fate, "...You will not die."
Meanwhile, I wasn't watching the road. I didn't give a damn about that until I saw a set of headlights blind my vision into almost bleeding, but the second my pupils had abapted to extremity of the high-beams, the vehicle crashed right into me and...A-Amy! Shit!
Pulling her into me, Amy was well embedded into my chest as my body rolled and toppled over the hood of the god damn car and finally into the mud. The lightning that had tailed me down electorcuted the truck instead, causing it to explode into flames and scur into another car.
For a full ten seconds, I was hobbling up on my feet in a state of paralysis that rattled and delayed my nervals, causing me double over, and what's more, hallucinate stars and the sounds of bells.
Closing an eye from my wooziness and the pressure point in my broken rib, I limped to Amy Rose. Her head is snapped back, her eyes are rolling like marbles and she's shaking from head to toe, a physical state very similar to when Maria went through her seizures. My fingers, convulsing more than Amy's body, uncurled and ached to touch the dying girl, as though one touch from me would renew her health.
She's cold...her flesh is going white...
I...I can't even...
Fuck, get moving, Shadow!
I shut my eyes and clear the child inside me, and haul Amy Rose up into my arms again.
Once I arrived at the City's famous house of recovery, I barged through the doors, standing there, drowning in the rain and a pink hedgehog's red fluids.
...The humans shrieked. They shrieked. They, SHRIEKED! They didn't even h...elp me!
I run up and thrust Amy onto the counter where the nurses sat and sobbed, scattering the pen-holders and clip boards all over the front desk. One nurse looked up from her arms with a horrified face that was freckled with Amy's blood.
"Help her," I panted through my fangs before opening my mouth big and wide, "NOW!"
"R...R-Right away, Mr. Sonic!" She sure was taking her fucking time by just standing there!
"Are you blind, wench?!" I pound the counter with my fist and then wrestled the wench forward by her uniform's collar. "Do you see her?! I said LOOK AT HER! Do you see her?!"
She went on slobbering and sobbing, "Yes! Yes! YES!" as I gripped her by the scalp and shoved her face over Amy's body, forcing her to see this girl DYING!
"LOOK at her! I said LOOK AT HER! Do you see her?! You see her?! Then HELP. HER." I flung her back behind her desk, not caring if she broke a leg, a neck, or her god damn spine.
Everyone's staring, everyone's gasping, everyone's clinging to each other in fear, but no one is HELPING me.
I turn to them all — the wounded, the sick, the dying, the workers -— and scream, "You pathetic fucking humans—HELP HER! Get someone and fucking HELP HER!"
Sprays of Amy's blood dotted my muzzle and fangs, making me look like the cannibal who'd ripped her apart, but I continued to caress the back of her head into my chest, holding her to me, shaking with her throbs...
For she will never mean nothing to me, in any lifetime, no matter what memories I would have lost. She has changed the course of my future on ARK, and she is changing it as we speak.
...Sonic lifted Amy's bracelet to Tails, showing the fox all its scuffed chippings.
"Amy was ATTACKED?! N-No-" Tails tossed the covers off him, before winching and cradling his ribs.
He pried an eye open to look up at a concerned, back-patting Sonic. His cornea was discolored, but the droopy eyelid had a black and purple bulge on it. His nose was smashed in and he was missing a fang, Sonic noted, in addition to the tip of the ear that had been bitten off.
"...Yeah," Sonic's mouth hardly moved to the voice and his mind wasn't on the words he spoke.
Sonic had went on a one-man search party for hours and hours in the storm. He found no Shadow, and no Shadow clone. He searched so long and hard, that he was now sick with a chest-cold and mild fever.
"I mean I..." Sonic sucked in a breath, slurping on some mucus. "I saw blood on the carpet after Shadow took her..." Sonic's eyes replayed the scene he was describing, and his glare sunk in deeper than it had been. "...Damn it..." he fisted his hand and talked through his teeth, "Just where in the hell did Shadow TAKE her?"
"Calm d-down...!" Tails sounded congested with mucus too, and sniffled some. "Sh-Shadow probably took her...to the hospital...! You already said there were two black hedgehogs in the same room, so my guess is..." Tails rubbed his runny nose. "That o-other black hedgehog...was the one who—"
"Did this to you..." Sonic's fist shook.
Tails tripped over his words to change the topic, "...B-But...this guy could be Eggman's n-newest android..."
Sonic's fist stopped shaking. "What? No...no way. Egghead can't design something so close to the real thing. So life-like. His brain's the size of an embyro, Tails!"
Tails kneaded his sprained ankle, trying to prevent the smile that wanted to split his face open at Sonic's cynical satire. Sonic warmed Tails with an awkward chuckle, but then cleared his throat when the silence grew just as awkward. Shyly, Tails looked down, and the same glowing happiness he got in Mystic Ruins obtunded the pain he was in, but he pushed the happiness to the back of his mind and reminded Sonic after a few stutters:
"E-Eggman is the only scientist around that could make something like that. We don't have any other leads. But you're right, he's not the genius his grandfather was."
Both companions lowered their heads and ears.
Suddenly, "That might be it!"
Sonic's ears popped back up.
"It just might be the project G.U.N. has been keeping in lock-down for forty-one years; I'd been reading about it before you came over to the workshop; that's what we were supposed to talk about, remember?"
"...Wait, so..." Sonic tilted his head with the higher ear twitching. "It isn't...?"
"No way! Gerald didn't have time to be making two prototypes. There was only the Biolizard, and Project Shadow. And there's a reason Shadow's name was titled 'Project' during the ARK era; he wasn't finished being created on the ARK."
"...Wait — then Shadow's not really...?"
"I can't answer that...but, since the Shadow we know is, in no shape or form, going to be ordered around by the government like he was supposed to be, G.U.N.'s been trying to replicate what Gerald's done. Shadow thinks too independently, remember? The military had complained that Gerald practically gave him a soul, and you can't break a soul or a free will."
"And this thing?"
"They tried using some of Shadow's DNA for their own project, but it had none of Shadow's biological uniquities — like artificial organs enhanced by technical manipulations, organic blood, and Maria's transplanted heart. If Shadow still really thinks he's a machine OR a weapon of mass destruction, he's dead wrong, and has got to wake up. G.U.N.'s attempt was made from metal and that's it. And from what I've dug up, the project was becoming a major failure. They cancelled it because it had too many problems. It...thought like a child."
"But what was it called?"
"So in English, this guy is a rinky-dink, sleazy cloned version of Shadow built like a ton of metal legos."
Tails scratched his head. "Well, when you put it like that..."
"But then how's it walking around and breathing if the project was cancelled?"
"...Do you think...?"
Tails put a finger to his mouth in thought.
"Wrath, what in God's name happened to you?" Dr. Robotnik crossed his arms and bit the inside of his cheek. "You've wasted hours of my time having to give you a blasted FIX!"
The hedgehog turned his head to the Doctor with a bored frown, but then smiled like a kitten getting his chin tickled. The left side of his skull was plated in metal. The white of his eyeball having been drained of its color, was now raw, red, and plagued with myriads of tiny brown nerve vessels. His iris, no longer the oval characteristic of a hedgehog's eye, was the round ball of a robot's yellow orb. His ear was sliced neatly in half, but his other remained in tagged and twitching health.
...Dr. Robotnik's eyebrows shot up. He stage-whispered to the hedgehog swinging its legs back and forth on the tool-bench, "...Did Shadow do this to you?"
"Yes, quite the artiste, is he not?" Wrath tongued his eyeball to adjust it back in the socket, before licking around his mouth and blinking unevenly at the Doctor.
"...Urgh...your face deforms itself with the more damage you take," Dr. Robotnik cleaned up his equipment. "Which means you're more useless than Shadow. How do you plan to carry out my orders if you can't defeat one measly little pipsqueak?! The next time you meet, you'll be scrap metal!"
Wrath growled, "Do, not...DOUBT me. I will strangle that damn hedgehog with his very own intestines and hang him on City Tower like a Christmas ornament; I will bring you his heart. So do not DOUBT me."
He tried to threaten his way to the Doctor's trust by turning his frown into a blood-thirsty grin as he hopped off the bench, but the expression was thrown into a fit of shock and helplessness when he looked down at his foot.
It was destroyed.
His nose wrinkled up in denial of the handicap. He shifted his body to walk on it, but ended up dragging the foot.
Dr. Robotnik just wagged a screw-driver at him. "HA! And what were you going to do with that leg of yours?" He turned back to his tool box. "Such cheap hardware would hardly pass as a creation built by my grandfather."
"...You must not like me very much..." Wrath brushed the backs of his fingers up and down the handle of the screw-driver. "...Do you, Doctor?" He clutched the handle tightly.
I sat outside Amy Rose's room, gripping at the armrests of my chair after thoroughly washing all the blood off.
I had fought to go in with her, and almost cost a few persistent humans their lives. She had been calling me, with her hand straining for me and her head limp and the tears soaking down her cheeks; she had needed me, because she was scared...she had needed me, because I was the only one there...— but these damn humans and their damn rules...
The armests snapped under my grip, and I flung the chair at the wall in response. I could do nothing except pace the hallway, itching to destroy a number of possible candidates in my path, and I was at my boiling point, but I knew it would've been best to save these feelings for another time, and another target.
In what seemed the eleventh hour, the doctor finally came strolling up with this sadistic smile on his perky little face. "Hello."
Well, you bastard?! How is she?!
"W-Well, she's breathing, at least. She's lost an uncountable amount of blood, and though the blood transaction could only do so much for her, she's improved from when we transferred her off the...counter..."
Feeling just how deep my hate is running, he flipped through the forms on his clip board and adjusted his glasses. "A-Ah, she...yes, she's in a better state than she was, but her heart-rate is still below average."
I growled, "And in other words, this means I can't see her at the moment?"
"A...A-Afraid so, Mr. Sonic."
I reached for his white collar this time and tore him into me, making sure he'd feel my very breath on his cheeks, "Don't...call me that…again."
"F-Forgive me Sonic," He grinned ear to ear, his glasses lopsided on his face. "I-I-I-I-I...surely didn't mean to offend you…!"
My eyebrow twitched. There might have been a busted blood vessel in my eye, but I shoved him to the floor and walked off, trying to work out the knots of stress cramping my neck. Her being alive and well has rehabiliated me to an extent, but I still can't seem to hold back my bloodlust.
I need to see her. My intuition is demanding that I see her. I nor know or trust these humans, no matter what their profession or duty, and I'll believe their pretend-concern once I see her for myself.
When all the nurses and doctors were cleared out of the hall, I slipped into her room and closed the door behind me with a soft "click," leaving my antipathy behind me, and replacing it with a...less-heavy, but sinking feeling.
There she was, sleeping in a bed with blood-bank-bags and needles taped to her forearms, paler than the dead, grayer than pink. I swallowed something thick and took a few steps further, but the images of Maria taking her last dying breath struck me. I stood there feeling cross inside at similarities I wished not to make, but continued on. When I reached her, I ignored the stool that would grant me rest and stood at her bedside. The beeping of her pulse on the machine made the air heavier than it should've been, and I suddenly did not know what to say...or what to do...
I close my eyes and gather up my regrets.
"Amy Rose…" I whisper. "…If you're awake…" My hands itch to be elsewhere. "You'd be ready to know that I did not intend for any of this to befall you." My fists close. "This...is not what I had wanted, for anyone."
She breathed, in and out, an up and down of the chest, a rasp, a cough, then a hum.
She was listening, I was certain.
My hand is at it again; the fingertips are a breath's away from touching the wild pink bangs that beg for a relaxer. More warmth melts my corpuscles; I shiver at the tickly sensation of her hair beneath my finger.
The foolish girl has pleaded action upon action to be a part of me and my oppression. She has made it her New Year's Resolution to make my rock hard frown be friends with her flexible little smiles, to compliment each other with our dissimilarities and console the other with our similarities.
Perhaps I have met my match in stubbornness.
Perhaps I am her reality-check.
Perhaps that if I linger here in a hospital room muggy with her hot breath, these wants will become needs and she'll destroy me, awake or sleep.
"...Amy...?" I've only heard my voice sound this way just before Maria's death - scared, weak, regretful, hoping...the voice of a child.
Amy didn't come to life for me again; no hand-squeezing or uttering sobs, just the stabile elevations of her chest.
I withdraw my hand and turn my palm over, looking into its craggy patterns. These hands that are mine, do not feel like hands of destruction. It's as though, I've forgotten that person - The Ultimate Lifeform. And am now, in place of him...me.
I jump when Amy begins slurring and whimpering inaudible things to me in her sleep. My hand had been beside hers, yet she's here enough to snag onto the fingers.
"I know people do the most trivial things, and some people~...may be selfish, like the Professor said, but they're basically good, if they never give up on their wishes. They always have a reason to be happy!"
...I shut my eyes. 'Does this, apply to me too? ...Am I, basically good, because I have once been selfish, just like these humans?'
"You won't be lost like that forever. You were given a second chance because you needed and deserved it, maybe? All you had to go through...that you survived and stuff, rewarded you with a chance to live a better life now. You can be...whomever you want at this point. You can pick anything you like. The present and the future are everything. It's like...it's like you're finally free! No orders, promises, or missions! You can make up your own...for, well...well for you, I guess. So you can't mope about it. You have to get out there and make the best of it!"
My eyebrows soften some...
I stroke her knuckle with my thumb, shaky and unsure of myself.
My ears droop.
All the things, that I fear, and have forgotten how to express...
Do not matter anymore. All that matters, is that this fragile girl before me has given me that second chance to believe in hope once more, and she must be protected.
I squeeze her hand back with sudden determination.
She must be protected.
Closing my eyes, I bow my head and pray to the only phenonmenon that I believe in:
"...Maria," I try to whisper through my lips, something passionate without my throat swelling up, "...Please..." I rest my hand on Amy's forehead; she pushes out a sigh. "...Watch over her for me..." I tilt my head back down to Amy Rose, hoping I can restore the damage that has been done. "...I have been here for you, and you will know this when you awaken."
With that, I snatch my hand away from hers, from the warmth that drugged me, and turned for the window.
As I gaze down on the city below, I begin to entertain myself with a sorrowful conclusion. I have been lost in the dark, and so had Amy, and unpredictably, we bumped into each other in that dark, and her fingertips had brushed my knuckles. Nothing more. That was...our relationship.
"…Sh...adow...give y...yourself a ch-chance...to be happy…"
I spun around in hopes of meeting an awake Amy, to trip back into my sins and attach myself to herself until the gap closes, until we're no longer subtle, to object everything I stood for, everything that is my phobia, but all I saw was her sleeping form lying peacefully beneath that bundle of covers.
I hear the blood in my ears. The sweat on my palms. My heart pounding. Too fast and too slow.
Tails had pressed Sonic to move them into Amy's bedroom. It was just a stab in the dark, but Tails beliveed Shadow might return, and tried to clean the damage-level as much as he could.
"Ugh," Sonic's head lolled back as he slumped into Amy's chair. "Come on, Tails~, just WHY exactly would Shadow come back here to begin with? Not to mention—" Sonic's eye caught a flash of green in Tails's hand. "Eh?"
Tails winked. "Shadow forgot his Chaos Emerald."
And about one hour later came the crashing sound of Shadow the Hedgehog spin-dashing through the window. Tails and Sonic recovered from dodging flying glass to look over their arms and gasp at him. The black hedgehog didn't look happy, either.
"Is there some tracking device secret between the two of you that I didn't know about?" Sonic grumbled.
"Listen up," Shadow ordered. "I know you have a Chaos Emerald radar," his finger panned between Sonic and Tails, before all five curled into a fist, "and I need it now with no questions asked."
"Yeesh," Sonic fingered his ear, trying to get over his old and mistaken bitterness towards the hedgehog. "You'd think the Sheriff here would know how to say 'please'."
Shadow advanced on him. "I'm not here to play games with you, blue hedgehog."
Sonic raised a bored eyebrow. "Sure, pal," he welcomed without a smile. "But first you gotta tell us where Amy is, and where this clone-you happens to be hidin' out." Sonic crossed his arms, glaring. "Then we can talkbusiness."
For a long pause, Shadow just stared the hedgehog down. He then muttered with a fairly controlled tone, "...Amy is currently being held at a hospital, out of harms way for a short period of time. If I don't get that device now, that short period of time will be up."
Tails swallowed. "Shadow, maybe—"
"Since when did you decide to make yourself Amy's body guard?" Sonic devastated Shadow with an all-serious and disturbed look on his face.
"So you choose to retort to enemies once more?"
"...That's not what I'm saying," Sonic's head sunk sideways as he squinted at Shadow. "Just..." he talked with his hands; trying to get the right words. "...Just, just when did all this happen?" He laughed at nothing funny. "When did you and Amy get so close...?"
Something in Shadow's eyes came alive. A feeling being relived. A memory.
Sonic's eyes widened as he tried to name the passion he'd only seen in Shadow's when he had been fueled with revenge, a purpose, to be frank.
"U-Uh, Shadow?" Tails stepped in. He had never really had to talk to the black hedgehog one on one before. "How about we all just help each other? I mean, we have your Chaos Emerald, too."
Tails showed Shadow the emerald, but Shadow just smirked, finding the manipulation of the deal funny.
"I could snatch that right out of your little palm, Fox boy." Shadow opened his eyes to him after humoring himself. "And take your radar along with it."
Tails flinched, sweat-dropping, while Sonic just growled.
"Hear me when I say this, because I will only say this once..." Shadow puffed his chest out. "This is between Wrath and I, and no one else. This is my business, and if I need to persuade you to cooperate with my demands by force, then I will not hesitate to do so."
"Oh, cut it out, Shadow!" Sonic flung his hand out. "Amy's in this, and she's more than OUR business, she's our FRIEND, so this is more than just you and the score you have to settle!" Sonic's lecture-tone started to die as his voice grew sick with accusation: "...And you know neither one of us can get her out of this with a one-man-only ego."
Shadow's lip ticked as well as his self-restraint. "...How dare you mock my agenda, Faker—"
"Wait, hold the phone, you guys!"
"...Hmph." Both hedgehogs whirled to the side and crossed their arm with shut eyes.
"Geez-Louise...listen, Shadow..we have the Chaos Emerald radar, but..." Tails closed his eyes tightly as he poked his fingers together. "...It's...it's at the Mystic Ruins in my Workshop, and it needs to be fixed!"
"...Was that supposed to be funny?"
"You know, I~ think [[[think]]] it's time [[[time]]]...to get up now [[[now]]]..."
I hear a girl giggling. An echo of a girl, I think. But, I can't see her. Everything is...black, just...just the kind of black that has no ceiling, no floor, no walls, no gravity, and your body isn't really...isn't really there. When you look down, there are no hands or feet to look down on, because you're not a part of this place, you're just a spectator of it. That's how I feel.
"Shadow would be so happy [[[happy]]] if you woke up..."
This girl I keep hearing, she sounds so sad and happy all at one time, like a ghost on a broken tape recorder.
"...And we want Shadow [[[Shadow-Sha-Sha-Shadow]]] to be happy, right?"
I imagine her trying to smile all her sadnesses away...
"...Because he's dreaming [[[dreaming - oh, he's dreaming]]] again."
"...I know you..." — I heard myself say in my head. "You're...that girl...Shadow's, 'little sister'..."
The picture starts to paint itself in the darkness like that was the password needed. I can now see her face, or rather, her gaze, but I couldn't see anything below the 'V' groove of her lip. She's looking down, and her brown eyelashes are dipping into eyes that aren't looking at me; each lash curled, thick and perfect, and the blonde strands that fell in between those lashes made her look like a live portrait with cute little freckles on the bridge of her nose. It was like a camera had switched to 'zoom' like one of those sentimental music videos you see on MTV.
Then she looks up at me, with the flitter of her pretty little lashes, and I see that her eyes are blue like the sky. I see her freckly cheeks dimple, like maybe she's smiling at me and I just can't see it, "...He dreams about what his future would look like if he could just have a conservation with you every day in pure isolation...without a care in the world. You're like his fairytale. With you, reality doesn't mean anything anymore. He's half-awake to that realization. It's in his subconscious, but he has a clue of it."
I see the back of her fingertip press against the groove of her lip, and then a, "Shhh...it's our little secret [[[secret-s-s-secret]]]."
...And then it goes black again. The darkness begins to peel apart when I open my eyes, and I—...wait...
I'm... — I blink — I'm awake...
I gasp and touch my face.
I'm alive! That must mean that evil Shadow look-alike was defeated!
"Shadow!" I toss the sheets off my legs to climb off the bed. The mattress springs up as my head leaves the pillow. "A-Ah!" I bite my lip in pain to stop the tears from squirting out.
Once I look down, I saw the issue; my shoulder's stitches are torn apart, my side feels like I've been h-hit by a Rhino, and I've got tubes and wires and needles and...all these weird hospital-things attached to me. I've never been in the hospital before, and I couldn't help but feel like some lab experiment.
I clap my hand over the wound and duck my head down, whimpering against my lips, "...Mmm...Sh-Shadow...where'd you go?"
My body hurts so b-bad. I take another look around, but because everything's so blurry and my eyes feel like they're imaging objects.
"Shadow?" I'm panicking, and I feel it rise up my throat. "Sh-Shadow?"
I'm scared to be alone when I'm this handicapped, and he LEFT me here all alone! Shadow, I know you brought me here, so why'd you leave? Why are you and Sonic always leaving?! I raise my head up high to get a hold of myself; gotta be strong, gotta be strong. My head's already starting to feel funny from jumping up so quickly, but in doing so, I saw something I never thought I'd see again, lying there on the table-lamp beside me.
Two roses, one red and one white, entangled in each other's stems...
My eyes washed over with tears. He knew what those meant to me...oh, he knew. I hobbled as far as I could with all the equipment attached to me and cradled the roses' buds once I reached them. He didn't leave; he just...left something behind. Something that says he'll come back really, really soon.
"...Thank you…thank you so much," I tuck the roses into my chest and hug them, smiling wider than I've ever smiled before, even if all my tears are seeping inside the rose petals.
...I'll never let anything happen to you, roses. I promise.
Feeling particularly watched over, Amy limped back to the bed and crawled under the covers with her roses.
The small hand on the clock ticked around the digits.
—Amy's sudden gasp blubbers into a bloodcurdling scream. The tiny hospital vase meant for her flowers broke at the sonar-screech of the scream. Legs and arms kicked and thrashed about underneath the bleeding sheets as the bed squeaked and bounced. Sick laughter fell in sync with the the sobbing, until the mattress was sliced open.
"I missed you."